Why We Are Saying: It's Time to Shift the Power

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls
Posted August 26, 2019 from Fiji

At a multistakeholder conference on the localisation of aid convened in Jakarta, Indonesia (27 and 28 August) a core group of women brought together by UNWomen in a one day consultation (26 August) are amplifying the call that the success of localisation requires partnerships with women-led and women’s rights organisations in a transformed humanitarian and crisis response system to suit the needs, priorities and capacities of women’s organisations, rather than expecting women to adapt to existing systems.

Our recommendations are based on our lived experiences and knowledge. From growing up through the devastation of   local and national disasters, and as first responders from the early warning and preparedness stage to the post disaster needs assessment.

Some are continuing to provide leadership and support to camps where communities seek shelter and security.

We have the local networks to enable more effective humanitarian action.

Our recommendations are key to the operationalisation of the localisation commitments adopted at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. We must be fully engaged.

The Localisation Conference is an opportunity to learn from participants as well as develop a key set of strategies to progress the commitments. While aid is already local i.e. aimed at reaching local communities, the objective of localisations is about making change and transforming the international sector says David Fisher of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC). His opening remarks at the conference spoke to the Grand Bargain referred to the responsibility of the international sector to re-evaluate its role and also address the financing gap for the humanitarian sector. This requires greater investment in risk reduction and prevention, as well as expanding the donor base and removing the inefficiencies in this sector.

These commitments are partnerships, capacity strengthening and funding include strategies that will remove the barriers that prevent organisations and donors from partnering with local and national responders including by increasing the investment in the institutional capacities of local and national responders so that by 2020 at least 25% of humanitarian funding reaches local and national responders directly.

It's a commitment from INGOs and donors, “the big agencies” that is also about the investment in the leadership of the long term capacity of local responders – government, civil society and even private sector.

While national disaster management systems and international agencies like the Red Cross/Crescent come to mind, tracking and progressing the Localisation of Humanitarian Aid is an opportunity to hold the localisation agenda accountable to gender equality and human rights commitments, as well as investing in the diverse ways women organise for disaster and humanitarian response.

But it is not about simply sub-contracting services of women, but investment in enhancing national and local capacity of women’s leadership, so that  women of all diversities are meaningfully engaged in the disaster management coordination  system, and not simply regarded as vulnerable beneficiaries of aid.

It means transforming the structures of decision making which are often barriers in the process of localisation. Women’s local knowledge must also be supported from personal risks and broader security risks and women’s organisations can be supported to manage processes with equitable partnerships.

Coordination mechanisms such as disaster management offices can be strengthened to be more accountable and aligned to national gender and disability commitments. It means strengthening national institutional frameworks – policies and legislations, as well as programming processes e.g. enhancing the availability of disaggregated data, applying gender budgeting approaches to disaster and humanitarian response.

A report on the progress on the Grand Bargain highlights that substantive progress is being made including catalysing action to progress previous gender equality commitments.

The humanitarian and development, as well as the peace nexus, can ensure that response mandates also apply conflict prevention and peacebuilding approaches in national and local actions.  

So how do we ensure inclusive leadership in a crisis?

In the Pacific, we are organising and demonstrating an equitable partnership model that is grounded in feminist practice and informed by Pacific women’s indigenous knowledge and local expertise.

The Shifting the Power Coalition (StPC) was formed in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam (2015) in Vanuatu and Cyclone Winston (2016) in Fiji.  It is the only regional alliance focused on strengthening the collective power, influence and leadership of diverse Pacific women in responding to disasters and climate change.

The Coalition is made up of 10 women-led civil society organisations and the Pacific Disability Forum, bringing together the diversity of Pacific women including women with disabilities, young women, rural women and LGBTIQ communities. The coalition is contributing to movement building and engaging in new sectoral spaces in the Pacific.

It is a unique, women led mechanism that draws on the capacity of the coalition members and collectively aims to enhance engagement in the humanitarian sector and climate change movement from a women’s rights and feminist approach.

The Coalition focuses on strengthening women’s capacity to engage in policy and decision making, driving evidence-based and women-led innovations from the region, as well as engaging in national and regional advocacy. StPC members from Fiji, Papua New Guinea (including Bougainville), Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Australia, and their local and Pacific-wide networks including the Pacific Disability Forum and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) Pacific network are working together to support women at local, national and regional levels to mobilise our collective leadership.  ActionAid as a women’s rights focused humanitarian organisation supports Coalition members to engage in the humanitarian system. 

The Coalition is contributing to strengthening partnerships with state actors such as Ministries of Women’s Affairs and Climate Change and National Disaster Management Authorities to enhance accountability across the government sector to women's rights in the context of climate change and disasters.

We are extending our collaboration through solidarity engagement via the Pacific Feminist Forum (PFF) and other national and regional civil society networks. This is our commitment to enhance feminist collaboration to learn together and reshape the humanitarian agenda by embedding women’s rights and leadership in humanitarian coordination efforts across the cluster system, in line with the PFF Action Plan (2019). 

Recognizing that Pacific Governments have made commitments to progress gender equality including through regional and global gender policies such as the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA), the ratification of UN Conventions including the Convention on the Elimination of all-forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD), a commitment to the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, we are committed to strengthen linkages with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Agenda for Humanity as well as Pacific Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Pacific Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP)

Recommendations:

  • Support Localised Women Led Humanitarian response by redesigning the processes and structures so that women are engaged in defining and driving the localisation agenda. This must include investment in research and learning models that examine both the opportunities and challenges for diverse, local women’s leadership in humanitarian action can support this;
  • Ensure an equitable allocation of resources towards the strengthening of women’s networks and coalition that support women leaders to take up leadership and coordination roles in disaster preparedness, response and recovery alongside other national actors. Diverse women leaders must be driving community-based responses to ensure long term sustainability by  strengthening of the humanitarian and development nexus;
  • Prevent Age and Disability Exclusion in humanitarian action by investing towards greater inclusion, including integrating the specific needs of intersecting inequalities such as gender, poverty, disability and age;
  • The #aidtoo movement has highlighted the gaps in ensuring the protecting the rights of women and girls. This requires appropriate and adequately resourced responses that are driven by the communities most affected;
  • The protection of women’s rights should be central to any response and integrated into early warning, response, recovery and resilience building. This also requires strengthening the capacity and accountability of the humanitarian sector to ensure the protection of women’s rights in times of crisis in a meaningful way – i.e, with women’s rights organisations involved as key stakeholders.  

 

Comments 5

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Dear Sharon,

Congratulations on being part of this consultation! Living in a country labeled as a "laboratory for disasters", I agree with this, " it is not about simply sub-contracting services of women, but investment in enhancing national and local capacity of women’s leadership, so that women of all diversities are meaningfully engaged in the disaster management coordination system, and not simply regarded as vulnerable beneficiaries of aid.

It means transforming the structures of decision making which are often barriers in the process of localisation. Women’s local knowledge must also be supported from personal risks and broader security risks and women’s organisations can be supported to manage processes with equitable partnerships."

Thank you for sharing! Looking forward to the implementation of the recommendations. Was there any representative from the Philippines?

Jill Langhus
Aug 28
Aug 28

Hi Sharon,

Thanks for sharing your update. I agree with all your recommendations. I hope they all get implemented:-)

Hope you have a great week!

Tamarack Verrall
Aug 31
Aug 31

Hi Sharon,
This is wonderful news and your full description is a blueprint for any of us working toward more effective resource allocation and aid, local and international, ensuring every step of the way that women's perspective is embedded, and any resources be used in effective ways that do not overlook the specific priorities for women, and for all other marginalized groups. Thank you for such a detailed report. I am so glad to have your excellent and inspiring details on this important conference. I love your title, too. It is exactly what we need to do. Women's priorities embrace all of humanity.

Tarke Edith
Sep 04
Sep 04

Dear Sharon
Thanks for sharing your update with us and congratulations for being part of that program

Beth Lacey
Sep 05
Sep 05

Your updates are always very informative